We’ll I’m glad we all waited with baited breath for the Deputy Prime Minister’s announcement on ‘Locally-led Garden Cities’. That’s right, garden cities – of 15,000 homes. Err, that doesn’t sound much like a city. In fact, it doesn’t really sound much like anything at all. What does 15,000 homes get you in isolation? A couple of primary schools and a secondary, and maybe a large food store. Perhaps a couple of bus routes? Hardly inspiring, and certainly not sustainable.
Like a rehash of a bad policy announcement under the last knockings of the previous Labour administration, locally-led Garden Cities is all soundbite, and no substance. At best, 15,000 homes is a decent suburb, but to function properly it needs to be able to borrow from the services and facilities of a much bigger settlement. It will make chaff-all difference to housing demand and supply, and it isn’t a particularly good way of spending money – state or private. Much better to focus on locations with good existing infrastructure, or where new infrastructure is already planned to be delivered.
Of course, that inevitably means looking at the Green Belt, two words that are strangely absent from the prospectus. What the prospectus does suggest is that new Garden Cities should be locally led, and supported by local communities. If those conditions existed, we wouldn’t have needed a prospectus on Garden Cities in the first place.
Look out for schemes that have already been around for years being re-badged as Garden Cities any time soon…